Sizzle Simmer Sauté – Local small pasta company is big on flavor

Jennifer Ruple

Passion for pasta and cooking led Alee Gratz-Collier and Mike Anderson down the path to create a unique business, River Valley Pasta (RVP). The couple’s home-based company, located in Findlay, Ohio, specializes in small batch, made-from-scratch pasta.

Both Anderson and Gratz-Collier are 10-year veterans of the food industry. He’s a cook at a local restaurant, and she’s a bartender. “We already had a background of cooking, and then we learned how to make great pasta,” said Gratz-Collier. They decided to start a homemade pasta business when they realized no one else was doing anything like it in the area. “Our pasta rocks, and we’re just trying to figure out how to get it out there.”

Gratz-Collier and Anderson have been selling their pasta at farmers markets for the past three years including the Toledo Farmers Market on Saturdays and the Bowling Green Farmers Market on Wednesday evenings. They offer savory flavors such as original (plain), beet, roasted garlic, butternut squash, mushroom, spinach, and a new blend, Kalamata olive and fresh parsley. They also offer vegan versions of the beet and spinach. “We started out with our plain pasta and then slowly started adding different flavors and experimenting with flours,” said Gratz-Collier.

Some of the flavors are seasonal, as the couple works hard to use as much locally grown produce that they can. “We always offer plain, roasted garlic, herb, and mushroom,” said Gratz-Collier. “In the summer we make a tomato basil blend, and in the fall, we offer butternut squash with fresh sage. Occasionally, we offer a smoky and spicy pasta made with paprika and cayenne pepper,” she explained.

What makes River Valley Pasta unique? “We use two types of flours to give our pasta a special texture, and we use eggs,” answered Gratz-Collier. “Our slow drying process of 18-20 hours allows the gluten to form so you get a really nice texture on the outside of the pasta and that’s what absorbs the sauce.”

Gratz-Collier is content to eat her pasta coated in butter and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese; however, she and Anderson love to cook and develop new recipes. Here are three from their River Valley Pasta recipe box. For more recipes and to order pasta online, visit rivervalleypasta.com.

Basil Pesto with Roasted Garlic River Valley Pasta
Gratz-Collier suggests trying this simple nut-free basil pesto. “We pair it with charred asparagus, shiitake mushrooms grated Parmesan. It’s simple and delicious.”

1 tablespoon toasted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups fresh basil, packed
6 ounces Roasted Garlic RVP
Parmesan cheese, grated

To a blender, add olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt.
Blend on medium speed for 1 minute.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, cook pasta for 3 to 5 minutes.
Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Drain pasta and return to pot.

Toss pesto and pasta. Add pasta water little by little until pesto coats pasta.
Serve topped with Parmesan.

Vegan Garlic Alfredo Sauce
“This sauce tastes just like your favorite guilty pleasure Alfredo without the cheese, butter, and guilt,” said Gratz-Collier. “It’s easy to make and you can add any of your favorite roasted vegetables to it.”

1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, separated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Roasted Brussels sprouts or vegetables of choice
Lemon zest
Fresh parsley, chopped

Soak cashews overnight, or if you have a high-powered blender, soak them for a couple of hours in hot water.
Drain and set aside.

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat.
Add chopped onion and 1 cup vegetable broth.
Cook until onion is tender, and broth is almost gone. If the onion is cooking too fast and starting to brown, reduce heat.
Add minced garlic and continue to cook, stirring often, until broth is gone.
This will help the sauce be thick and creamy.

Blend the onion and garlic, 1/2 cup broth, salt, pepper, drained cashews, lemon juice and nutritional yeast. Blend on high for a couple of minutes until mixture is smooth and creamy.
Add more salt and pepper as desired.

Cook pasta according to package directions.
Drain and toss back into the pot. Mix in sauce.

Plate mixture with vegetables, and garnish with parsley, lemon zest and pepper.

RVP’s Cincinnati-Style Chili
“I love Skyline Chili. Always have, always will. Here is my version that I serve with our plain pasta. Make sure to get a block of mild cheddar and shred it yourself and maybe even some oyster crackers, if you’re feeling saucy!

5 cups water
6 ounces tomato paste
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or less
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 pound lean ground beef
River Valley Pasta – plain
Cheddar cheese, shredded
Diced onion

In a large pot add water, tomato paste and cocoa and heat over medium, stirring with a whisk for about 3 minutes.

Add spices and vinegar.
Crumble the raw ground beef into the pot.
Use a potato masher or fork to break up the meat into very fine pieces.

Bring to a boil then turn heat down to medium-low.
Cook uncovered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, at a low boil, stirring occasionally until sauce has thickened.

Serve chili over RVP’s plain pasta.
Top with onion and cheddar.

– all photos by River Valley Pasta

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